Today is my birthday!

Happy Friday, Happy weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all to whom this applies!

Since the “techie” blog I wanted to post is no where near done, I had to do something. (IDK, virtual cakes just don’t cut it for me. I’m thinking about something from Friendly’s though. Bet you can’t guess. ;))

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Anyway, thought I’d do a quick share of some awesome music by an up and coming star! As life and a small world would have it, I went to school with his dad (who, I am VERY sad to say, passed about three years ago).

Tam’s dad was also very into his music. If memory serves me well, he loved his drums. What I remember most though, was a question he posed: if I had to lose one, would I give up my sight or my hearing?

Tam’s dad would rather not see than never be able to hear music again.

With that, I present to you Tam Justin Garcia. Take a few moments and listen to Liquid Universe. (You’ll be very glad you did!)  Then, if you would be so kind, visit his Facebook and Twitter pages and share about him some more? Thank you!

On a tennis note, Rafa Nadal topped David Ferrer in the quarterfinals at the Mutua Madrid Open! (Just cause it’s my b-day—of course! Last night my older son caught me watching another match and asked if it’s “tennis season” again. With the tennis channel, this is now a very welcome and fun year-round thing! Which also means, you may be constantly in-the-know about tennis whether you share the passion–or not! :D)

Have a great day all!

Joanna

Romance and Malware/Adware Removal

Good morning and happy Saturday everyone. Looking forward to the Madrid Tennis Open Championships getting underway! The top four men are scheduled to head up the draw. (That would be: Rafa, Roger, Nole and Andy.) VERY interested to see how it will be seeded; who will be the last man standing, as well as how it might impact Roland Garros (a.k.a., the French Open Tennis Championships) later this month. (It’s all hubby’s fault. He opted for a FIOS package that included Tennis Channel. :D)

Thanks to those of you who stopped in this past Monday! Here is a photo of the loverly flowers hunny surprised me with AFTER we promised each other no gifts, just a card. He NEVER listens 😉 and I should know better.

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So go figure. Last night before going to bed I drafted a post. (It’s been relegated to the future.) As you’ve already figured I got sidetracked after I started working on removing the annoying Snap.Do toolbar and its default landing page. My older son must have inadvertently downloaded it while installing software for his friend’s iPhone. It looks like this and is ANNOYING AS ALL GET OUT. Not that it gave much return for taking up space, and I’ve learned it HIJACKS your browser. Kept redirecting me to its advertisers,  with some links to my queries at least halfway down the page. (I happen to like my Google, Bing! and Yahoo! search engines, thank you very much.)

search-snap-do

Okay, no biggie, right? All I have to do is go into the Control Panel and uninstall the program.

NOT!!!!

I let the 16-y/o take over. He said something about custom, Advanced Settings and who knows what else under Control Panel then wielded some digital magic.

Or so he thought.

Now I’m irritated. Off to Google, where I typed in how to disable snap.do (or something similar). Yay! for auto-complete, at least in this instance, ;), and for REAL search engines, where anyone can find answers to any topic s/he can imagine.

I wound up Malwaretips.com.

I immediately found Stelian Pilici‘s rockin’, totally free and highly detailed how-to article. He made it easy for me to get right to work. (All steps to do so for each browser are listed with lots of screen shots to guide you. Takes a few minutes, plus time to run the adware cleaner.)

I had to try a few times b/c I neglected to follow ALL the steps. I’m thinking running the AdwCleaner was the magic, but only after I’d taken the time to tweak BOTH the browsers I have enabled. That would be Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.) BTW, Stelian made sure to include a direct link to the AdwCleaner in the article I sighted.

What are the morals of this story?

1. As tempting as it seems to click ACCEPT when installing software off the net, read the terms and conditions (or at least scroll through them) first! Often there are boxes to un/check that can save you the trouble of having to remove items you don’t want later on. (On the bright side, I am now empowered with a tool to handle this sort of nonsense in the future.)

2. Don’t be afraid to look for an answer to your problem on the internet, especially if you’ve learned one or two things along the way. Be prudent before you click away, but at least read a how-to article. You might be surprised at how much you can handle on your own. (Techie stuff often appears more overwhelming and complicated than it is. BUT: Most of what I’ve learned has built on itself and/or can often be generalized to solve many problems.)

3. Save Malwaretips.com in your favorites! And don’t forget  to thank the guys, SHARE and/or even donate to help keep their VERY VALUABLE efforts going.

4. PC users in particular, run your malware and antispyware programs. Regularly! (Okay, I’m as guilty as the next person.) Dump cookies and run Disk Cleanup  And keep your anti-virus software up to date. (I’m seeing a short Part 2 to this article evolve here. Hope to have it written and up by next week.) I might actually be done!

Thanks, folks, and have a wonderful weekend!

Joanna

Does Andy Murray’s Olympic Gold Count?

The 2012 Olympics are complete, flame’s out, flag’s been passed and the athletes gone.

Hi all. Just beginning to catch up after a week away and a very busy weekend. Hope all is well and that y’all missed me terribly while I was ‘out.’ 😉

Okay, I had to go here. This one wouldn’t leave me, and I’m sorry, but it’s a bit of a rant. (Besides, US Tennis Open qualifying action starts in a few hours. I’ve got tennis on the brain, lol.)

Until Wimbledon 2012, Andy Murray was, simply put, a top-five player. I respected his game—you have to have some skill to be the world’s Number Four—but he didn’t excite me as a fan. The tennis world didn’t seem to consider him a major contender either. Recent slam wins were reserved for Rafael Nadal (Rafa), Novak Djokovic (Nole or Djoker) and “the great” Roger Federer (The Fed).

Well, go figure. Andy signs on former champion (and very stoic) Ivan Lendl as coach and is now hanging in much tougher at the big venues. He made it to this year’s Wimbledon’s final and held his own big-time against The Fed, who’s earned many a trophy there. Murray played a great match, took second place and gained a tremendous amount of respect and fans that day.

Fast forward to one month later: Centre Court, Wimbledon, London 2012 Olympic gold medal tennis match. Andy vs. Roger, in a rematch of four weeks before. This time, Andy emerges with the title.

And what do the commentators say?! “Does this count?” (As in, is this title big enough to be the equivalent of a slam?)

REALLY?!

I mean:

REALLY??!!

Andy Murray wins his first REALLY big tournament at a venue that takes place ONCE every FOUR years. He claimed gold at Wimbledon, in his home court of London, representing Great Britain as he has since he joined the circuit. The addition of pros to Olympic competition—especially in tennis—kind of makes it REALLY hard for any non-pro to medal at all, let alone take gold.

So, essentially, Andy Murray won the gold Olympic medal against his peers, the elite of the elite when it comes to tennis. (BTW, let’s not forget Roger walking away with silver and Juan Martin DelPotro taking the bronze from—OMG!—the world’s Number One player, Djoker! You think DelPo’s not proud of THAT achievement? And while we’re at it, let’s recall that DelPo beat Rafa in the semis to beat The Fed in the 2009 US Open Tennis Championships. Nuff said.)

Unfortunately, since the days of Nancy Kerrigan taking silver (God-forbid) for her figure-skating grace and poise, anything but a gold medal seems glossed over and almost non-important. (Geez, Louise! I took second place in a writer’s contest and was every bit as excited as if I’d taken the top spot. Soon as I opened that email, I started shouting, “I’m the first loser in the contest!!!” all over the house. That’s hubby’s line, btw.)

Back to tennis: I do not pretend to understand pro rankings, but I do know playing in the Olympics “counts” toward rankings. Guess what: the commentators know that too. Perhaps they were being facetious and I heard the words and missed the tone? I suppose anything is possible. But, uh, commentator guys—you know who you are—let’s not downplay Olympic gold. No one’s forgotten Rafa’s (garnered in Beijing). I’m thinking most tennis fans—and especially Murray’s—are all going to remember well Andy’s first ‘BIG’ win.

Whew. Done. Thanks for letting me vent.

Here’s a link to a great photo of Andy sporting his gold medal! (No fun not being able to post a picture in the blog, what with copyright nightmares another blogger is dealing with.)

If you please, SHARE via one of the buttons. I do so thank you!

Have a great day and TTFN,

Joanna

Name Your Fave: E-Read or Hard Copy?

Hi friends,

I’m still so psyched about the NY Giants’ incredible run toward the NFC Championship. Working on a related post for later this week or next!

We were supposed to be talking about discipline vs. control with kids this week, but that dinky little post morphed into two and is now a five-part series. I’ll most likely start running it next week, once I feel each piece is ready to go to (Word)press. 😉

In the meantime, I’ve had a little over a year to consider myself an official user of an e-reader and thought I’d share my thoughts on some of the pros and cons.

As I’m sure you know, this awesome little device–in its many forms–is here to stay. Chances are, many of you recently acquired one right around that last week of December. That’s when my Nook Color sneaked its way into my happy little hands—last year, among hubby’s gifts. (Check out this year’s favorite here, then come right back now, y’hear?)

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Yay! You didn’t get sidetracked! Back to e-readers, tablets or whatever device on which you choose to read. And yes, for our purposes, Kindle and Nook apps count. Like others before me, I want to lay out what I find advantageous about reading digital versus holding that print book in my hand. I’ve found disadvantages to the former, and I’ll cover those as well.)

We’ll begin with print books, probably simpler and more straightforward on both the negative and positive sides. The biggest advantage as far as I’m concerned, I can read my story from beginning to end without distractions (to be discussed below). I can mark up my copy any way I want, and use the notes for future reference. (Recently, I bought very colorful post-it notes and used those to mark pages/passages in a suspense to help me construct my own. My plan is to lay out the post-its in a notebook or on posterboard and substitute story ideas of my own. I figure then I can move these around as needed to get a first draft ‘outline’ together.)

Biggest disadvantage to print book: the ones I love are taking up too much space in my house (and gathering dust, unfortunately). At least others have made their way into a donation box.

E-readers/tablets:

Biggest disadvantage (for those of us who are DBD, or Distracted by Dust): distractions!!!! Other books, the internet, email, social media, blogs, shopping for more e-books, games, crossword puzzles, etc. (I believe this is significantly less with Amazon’s original Kindle and Sony’s dedicated device.)

Advantages: Love being able to look up information as I read—these can be word definitions or articles related to background information relative to the plot or time during which the story takes place (i.e., currently reading a romance set against medieval times; words for garments, weapons, tools, etc are unfamiliar. If the built-in dictionary isn’t helpful, Google is one touch away, assuming wi-fi is on).

I can highlight great prose or take notes on the story, note typos to inform the author, etc; these are auto-organized by page and ready to be viewed with another touch.

Virtual storage rocks! Eight gigabytes of space are on the Nook Color; this can expand to up to 32 GB via a memory card. I can also store the files on my computer and Barnes and Noble houses all my purchases in their virtual library. I can’t ever lose any book I bought via their website. (No dust bunnies anywhere, either!)

Viewing my work on a screen other than the laptop’s and not being able to mess with it while reading for flow. I save the file as PDF—just scrolls better for some reason—and just read. (I did, however, take extensive handwritten notes on a last re-read of a current manuscript, then went back into the Word-file and made those changes one at a time. Found a whole ‘nother level of the story that way. Now, the most recent version is in PDF and cooling a little before I upload it to my reading device.

I can share my work with others without having to print two hundred pages or so. Saves me $$ and spares the environment the extra paper, ink cartridges, etc that otherwise might have wound up in landfills. (Even recycling has its disadvantages in the energy needed for the chemical processes involved. I also learned the hard way that refilling ink cartridges at my local drugstore was a recipe for destroying my printer in the long run—which turned out to be less than a year.)

The cost of e-books is often significantly less than the cost of a print book (though not always the case).

E-books have created apparently infinite opportunities for writers and authors to indie- and/or self-publish works that might have otherwise virtually rotted on their hard drives.

So where does your favor lie? On the print pages or with virtual ink?

Have a great day and ttys,

Joanna

Potential Power of Twitter–Part 2

Good day, friends!

Last time I shared a story about the time some friends and I wound up lost while driving to a women’s retreat. (You can read that post here.) Today I’ll tie that into:

The Incredible, Potential Power of Twitter

Yes, I wrote that title—and mean it. Would never have happened a year ago, I promise. I couldn’t be bothered being a part of this monster of a social media tool, nor did I have any desire to learn about it so that I could be. Then I happened on Kristen Lamb’s blog. Then I cracked and bought her bestseller, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media—WANA, from here on and the best $4.99 I’ve spent in some time. Read my thoughts on it here. Those thoughts got me a request to write a short article for Author-Me’s monthly newsletter

Knock-knock: Are you starting to get an idea of how this works?

These days you’ll find me hanging out here, on Facebook and yes, Twitter. Do I absolutely love any of Kristen’s recommended three? Not necessarily, but I love people and enjoy making online friends and connections and learning more than I ever imagined I could via all the blogs I find via the three venues. (Kristen’s weekly mash-up of awesomeness—a.k.a. blogs—could keep me reading all day, and since January of this year, I swear I’ve gained an education in social media and self-publishing from blogs alone. And all for the cost of what? Internet access and whatever time I’m willing to put into it.)

Sorry. Sidetracked. Back to business!

So what sets Twitter apart? Doesn’t take that much time as a tweeter to figure out how powerful a tool this is. I will, however, state it’s much easier to see the potential once you’re using Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or similar personal browser created to organize and manage the hundreds and probably thousands of tweets headed your way alone on a daily basis. (Depends on your following as well as your ability to create/maintain online relationships. Oh, and don’t expect to be able to read and/or respond to every message once you’re ‘established.’ Twitter interactions happen pretty much in a ‘real time’ manner: about ninety minutes (assuming you’re using a personal browser and based on how busy a particular column is—more about this later) before you ‘missed’ a tweet, or more realistically, a slew of them.

Okay, writing about this is getting bigger than I can handle, so I’ll stick to what, IMHO, are the keys to what makes Twitter so amazing: simplicity and inherent exponential potential.

Simplicity: One-hundred-forty characters to get a thought across AND get it onto the screens of x-number of fellow tweeps. At first I thought, what’s the point of just that tiny window? Now I realize a side benefit: teaching me to edit and keep what I say succinct and direct. (Only the most important words here.)

Inherent exponential potential: Concept=simple. Potential power: beyond believable and in need of a few sentences to do it justice. When you tweet, write your message but spare some characters. You’ll use those spaces to create a hashtag: the pound sign/symbol (#) followed by pretty much any word you want. Think in terms of tags or keywords.

Example: If I’m tweeting about US Open tennis, I’ll add #usopen, #tennis, #rafaelnadal or something along those lines. The Twitter monster makes sure that anyone who has a Tweetdeck column dedicated to any or all of those (or similar) hashtags will see my tweet. Now do you get an idea of how many potential people you can reach with only one-hundred-forty characters? (And that doesn’t include retweets, folks—messages you ‘repeat’ to all your followers with a single click.) Honestly, I am boggled—better yet: flum-gubbered—every time I think about this.

I’ll stop here—think I overwhelmed myself—before I give you too much to take in. (Something tells me I’ll be exploring this topic again.) Please feel free to shoot out questions: here, or at my Facebook and/or Twitter pages.

Don’t forget: A critique of up to 10 pages of your work-in-progress or completed manuscript is still up for grabs at the end of this week. Leave a comment for your chance to win!

Until next time,

Joanna

Potential Power of Twitter–Part 1

“Joanna, you have a story for everything!”

Those of you who know me or have been around my blog-block before have already heard/read that quote: what a former co-worker told me years ago, way before I had any clue I’d be a writer. She was right. No matter the topic, I had some related account of a cousin, television show or life experience of my own. (I was new to the work-force then. Imagine how many more stories I have now! :D)

These days my kids and their friends roll their eyes and look at each other when they make some random comment then realize they just triggered my retelling of: “Another story.”

Oh, God. She’s about to do it again…Hang in there: I’m going somewhere with this. (Pinky swear…)

And yes, I changed the names in the interest of privacy!

Years ago I attended a women’s retreat. The drive should have taken about three hours from start to finish. I drove, accompanied by two women. Sally was at least twenty years older than I; Melanie might have been ten years younger (and a bit of a nervous type).

With written directions and my cell phone in hand (okay it was a dino-phone), we took off on the interstate, excited to be away from everyone for a couple of days. We took exit #13—just like the paper said—and wound up spending the next three hours seriously lost. (All we knew was we were in God’s country—somewhere—with not much more to go on but trees and two-lane roads. We later learned the directions didn’t specify we were supposed to take exit #13 AFTER we crossed over into the next state—kind of an important detail…).

Cell-phone reception wasn’t what it is today, so my dino-phone was pretty useless. We happened on at least one hotel and asked for directions. Those turned out as helpful as the phone. Sally and I found much humor in the situation; figured we’d get there eventually. Melanie later told us she was flipping out in the back seat while Sally and I just laughed. (We had no idea how upset with us she was until the next day, when she finally told us.)

We had plenty of gas and a sturdy vehicle; no need to panic. We weren’t however, any closer to where we needed to be, nor did we have a clue how to get there. We stopped for directions again. And again. And probably a time after that. Every time we realized we were lost—again!—Sally and I laughed. Melanie got more anxious.

We finally made it to some town and stopped a man who happened to be walking by. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but when he opened his sentence exactly the same way as had so many of those we asked for directions before him, Sally and I looked at each other and fell apart laughing. We couldn’t stop.

Once Sally and I could talk, we apologized and explained why we cracked up the way we did; in no way did we intend any offense. He assured us none was taken. “I have a son with schizophrenia. Nothing you can say can upset me. I’ll get you where you need to go.”

We promised to pray for him and his son.

Don’t you know? That man’s directions got us to our destination, six hours after we started out.

The following Sunday, the women who’d gone on the retreat were called to share some of their experiences relative to the previous weekend. Sally, Melanie and I shared out ‘lost’ story, enjoying very much the collective chuckles of the congregation as we did so.

Then we mentioned the man who finally put us on the correct road to our destination, his son and our promise to pray for them and their family.

As a church we prayed together. Then I thought about how individuals might go home and pray for them too, and how they might ask someone else to pray, and those folks might ask someone else to pray, and so on and so on—until more people than any of us could imagine are praying for this gentleman and his schizophrenic son. For all any of us knows, people could still remember him or the story and be praying for him today. My retelling of this story serves as a reminder to do so for me and may incline others to do so as well.

And somehow, all of brings to mind the incredible, potential power of Twitter.

Just a reminder: A critique of up to 10 pages of your work-in-progress or completed manuscript is still up for grabs at the end of this week. Leave a comment for your chance to win!

More next time, as in Wednesday. 😉

See you then!

Joanna

Social Media Made Easy (?)

Well, that depends on how you look at it, I suppose.

Hi! Hope all is well! I’ve been a bit MIA but working at getting my act back together–just in time for school to re-open, right?

So I just finished reading Kristen Lamb’s, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (WANA, from here on)

(Go ahead: Click the image! Finally learned how to make a picture into a link, lol.)

As much as I try to keep up with the variety of posts at Kristen’s awesome blog (yes, I’m a subscriber), something kept holding me back when it came to picking up an e-copy of this fabulous resource, maybe the fact that I’m not big on non-fiction books. (I love stories! If you handed me a romance in which the hero and heroine tweeted themselves through their emotional journeys, chances are, I’d be all over it.) Good thing I finally managed to crack my own nut! 🙂

WANA  is probably the first non-fiction book I couldn’t put down. Kristen’s quirky sense of humor made her walk-through the Big Three (okay, four, but MySpace has sort of gone by the wayside since WANA hit the virtual shelves) fun. Her prose is conversational, easy to follow and steps are laid out so that all you have to do is bookmark your page and/or lay your social media foundation as you go. I promise you, no matter what your level, you will learn something from WANA.

Are you a newbie social media wanna be, fearful of how you’ll fare with Facebook, terrified of taking on the Twitterverse and warring with the thought of baring yourself at WordPress blog of your very own? Take heart! Kristen lays out in simple, straightforward terms everything you need to know about getting started in all the above, photos, bios and other necessities included!

Are you a multi-published, big-name author who’s been around the writer’s block in traditional and/or indie market(s); you have a clue but no time to keep up? Especially because you’ve got to crank out that next best-seller? Kristin shows you how to manage all those sites via realistic chunks of time. Still too much to handle? She discusses the value of outsourcing, too.

Are you semi-savvy in any or all the above? Confirm what you know, get excited about how ahead of the game you are and take your learning to the next level. I’ve got Twitter backgrounds to set, Tweetdeck to check and a Facebook fan page to create. I promise, WANA will be up on my Nook’s screen the whole time–now if I could just figure out how to highlight the pertinent pages by choice and not by fluke! Oh, I also re-created my WordPress profile, added a bio and photo to connect folks to brand Joanna Aislinn.  And I will be linking/syncing The Big Three together very soon. After that? Start Kristen’s most recent release: Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

(Stay tuned for thoughts on that.)

And while we’re talking about linking and syncing, anyone who knows the value of keeping up with all the trends in publishing today will NEED to subscribe to best-selling author Bob Mayer’s blog. The future of publishing really is learned here.

Wow. I thought I was going to write a few sentences! Off to a little R & R: Fran Fine calls and my alarm will be telling me it’s time to exercise (again) terribly soon!

Until next time,

Joanna